News in Brief 5 July 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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Children from the formerly ISIL-held city of Fallujah, which was freed by Iraqi government and militia forces at the end of June. Photo: OCHA

Fears grow for hundreds of missing Fallujah men and boys

In Iraq, fears are growing for well over 600 men and boys reportedly taken hostage by armed militia following the fall of Fallujah last month, the UN has said.

In an appeal for them to be found and freed, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that the incident risked sparking "full-throttle sectarian violence".

According to the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, the missing people left their village near the formerly ISIL-held city of Fallujah in June, and were duped into seeking refuge with Shia militia fighters masquerading as government troops.

Witnesses say the men and teenage boys separated from women and children and mistreated terribly, in retribution for the notorious IS massacre of Shia army recruits in Tikrit in 2014.

Rupert Colville is Spokesperson for the UN human rights chief:

"A number of witnesses attested that some who asked for water or who complained about the air were dragged outside and shot, strangled, or severely beaten. In addition, witnesses stated that at least four men were beheaded. Others were handcuffed and beaten to death, and the bodies of at least two men were set on fire."

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is calling for prompt action from the Iraqi authorities to bring those responsible for the crimes to justice.

The UN rights chief also said it was important to remember that most of the male inhabitants of regions held by IS "do not … have anything to do with them at all beyond doing what is necessary to stay alive".

More Syrian refugees living in poverty in host countries

Syrian refugees are running out of savings after more than five years of conflict and more of them than ever are living in poverty.

That's according to the UN Refugee Agency, (UNHCR), which along with partners, has produced a report into their situation in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt.

Together, these countries host some 4.8 million Syrian refugees.

In Lebanon, 70 per cent of refugees now live below the poverty line, up from 50 per cent in 2014, UNHCR says.

It also points out that countries which host those fleeing Syria also face "extreme pressure" to deliver even basic services to those who need it.

The difficulty of getting help to a growing number of vulnerable people is made harder by the lack of funding.

This is despite record pledges made earlier this year at the London Conference for the Syria Crisis, with only 30 per cent paid out so far.

Mediterranean Sea deaths in June “highest for years”

And finally, the number of people losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea continues to rise, with more than 2,900 deaths so far this year.

That figure represents well over 1,000 more fatalities at sea in the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period last year.

According to UN partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 13 people died per day last month – bringing the total number of victims to 383 for June alone; this was the highest monthly total for three years.

Italy is seeing most arrivals, with nearly 800 migrants rescued in the first three days of July alone, while arrivals from Greece are a fraction of what they once were.

The total number of arrivals so far in 2016 is more than 227,000 people.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’20″


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